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A Spark To Tear A Nation Asunder

Chapters: 14 Pages: 69 Word Count: 16,926 Genre: Science Fiction/Political Drama/War Story

Major Samantha Wethermain has only wanted one thing: to serve the nation she loves. However, as civil war comes to the United States and her mother turns out to be the leader of the rebellion, Samantha faces a dilemma: does she uphold her oath, or does she join her mother in treason? Find out in the story that reveals how the Second American Civil War began.

Chapter 1: Dreaming of A Life That Never Will Be

Heather felt like she had awoken in a dream. With her hand clasping her husband’s, they strolled towards the beach. The morning’s sun illuminated the path they took from their villa to the coast. Seagulls chirped, their silhouettes visible high over the ocean. A breeze blew across Heather’s back, causing her bare skin to tingle and a smile to form.

Heather looked up at the horizon, noting how the sun’s light mingled with the sky to create a pallet of reds, yellows, and oranges. Blissful. Serene.

“Every night I thought of you and Samantha,” Henry said. “Held you in my heart. Held onto the hope that this war would end, and that I would see you both again.”

“There there,” Heather comforted Henry. “The war is over. We’re together.”

Henry turned and stroked her chin. “And now I must leave you again.”

“No. You just came back to me. Don’t go. I can’t live without you.”

“I’m sorry, my love, but I must. The war is over, and we lost.” Henry released his grip and headed towards the rising sun and the horizon beyond.

Heather tried to follow, but the landscaped changed, with a wire fence now barding her path. Beyond it stood an Arabian city. It laid beside a desert. Missiles rose from concealed silos, their wails competing with the cries of sirens. Henry vanished within the dust clouds created by their launches, the sand obscuring Heather’s vision as the cloud rolled past her.

When they cleared, Henry appeared again and waved. Heather clenched the fence and screamed, “Come back. Don’t leave me. I can’t live without you.”

“I love you,” he said, then made his way towards a tower off in the distance.

Heather cried, only to stop when a light engulfed the tower. It shined like a supernova. Not even her hands could shield her from it. Eventually, it faded, and Heather peeked, her reward the sight of a mushroom cloud enveloping the city. More formed as…

California Vice Governor Wethermain awoke in a long chair in the backyard, while a golden retriever shoved a Frisbee in her face.

“Yes, yes. Here you go.” She took the Frisbee and tossed it across the lawn.

Frank ran after it, freeing Heather to reach for the martini that rested on the stand beside her. She took a sip, then went for a cigarette and a lighter.

“You shouldn’t be indulging in that habit,” her assistant Rebecca said as she approached Heather, a binder in hand. “You’re a role model to millions of girls.”

“Oh, give me a break. I’m the vice governor of a state, not the fuckin’ President.”

“You should still try to set an example.”

Heather lit the cigarette and took a puff. “Why? America has gone to shit. Really doesn’t matter what anyone does anymore. We’re all screwed.”

Rebecca shook her head, then placed the binder on the table. “Don’t say that.”

Heather frowned. “Why not? The Middle East is gone. The economy is in shambles, our allies hate us, and what do we have to show for it? A bunch of stupid MAGA hats. Oh wait, we don’t even have those. They were made in China, and the Chinese aren’t exactly trading with us these days. Don’t blame them. Who would want to invest in this shithole of a country.”

“Things aren’t all bad. America can still make a comeback. We just have to hold onto hope.”

“Hope? Really? Let’s see what cheery news we can look forward to today.” Heather grabbed the remote and turned on the large monitor that stood across the patio.

Images flashed over it: police hosing down rioters, the crowd driven into a frenzy because of the rise of food prices. Heather tapped the remote and was rewarded with talk of Hurricane Maranda. Thousands had died in Florida, not just because Maranda was bad, and it was, a category five, yet more irrefutable evidence that climate change was real, but because the state was broke and couldn’t afford the rescue helicopters critical to saving lives.

A third click and Governor Philip Brownback appeared, the dwarfish man standing in front of a large crowd under the California sun. “President Wellman says that we must give up Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Why? So that he can pay back foreign bankers. Do you believe this guy? He calls himself a Democrat. A Democrat? LBJ must be spinning in his grave. He says that we must take on one-ninth of the military. Why? So that he can balance the budget.

“Now, I don’t know about you, but I didn’t vote for him so that he could fleece me of every nickel and dime. The good citizens of California did not get us into this mess. Washington did, and we refuse to dig it out. That’s why as of today I’m stopping all payments to the federal government and will not resume until our demands are met. For a better California!”

“Ah, another brilliant stratagem by our esteem governor,” Heather proclaimed. “One problem. The real money is in payroll taxes, and he can’t touch those.”

“He’s trying something. You should be out there providing your input.”

“Why? No one cares what I have to say.”

“Sure, they do. You’re more beloved than you realize.”

“No, they loved my husband. But Henry had to go and get himself killed alongside millions of Arabs and Jews.” Heather brought the cigarette to her lips.

“We all miss the general, but he’s gone. We lost. We must move on.”

“Yeah. We lost, though not as much as those living in the Middle East, and the whole world blames us for it. Well, I guess the Saudis got their revenge.”

“We can’t worry about that. We need to focus on rebuilding America.”

“Don’t bother.” Heather lowered her cigarette. “We Californians should just secede.”

Rebecca gasped. “From the United States? You’re not serious, are you?”

“America’s dead. Everyone knows it. Trump and Pence drove it to the ground. So did Obama and Bush. Why drag a dead horse?”

***

Major Samantha Wethermain sat in the terminal at Luxembourg-Findel International. Her cell phone rested on her lap, its screen displaying her electronic ticket. Just thinking about the five hundred dollars it cost her to return from deployment made her bristle. She shook her head. “I know Uncle Sam is short on change but is a ticket home too much to ask?"

The speakers crackled. “Flight 228 to Huston, Texas is now boarding.”

Samantha got up, grabbed her duffle bag, and made her way to the line. She showed her cell phone and her passport before being allowed to board.

She entered the airplane and took a seat beside an elderly woman knitting a sweater.

“So, are you visiting America or returning?” the lady asked in a southern accent.

“Returning. I was stationed at Ramstein Air Force Base.”

The lady frowned. “I thought they closed that base years ago.”

“No, just recently. Ramstein was our last military base overseas.”

“Well, there goes the empire,” the lady said bitterly. “When I was a kid, we Americans were not just powerful and respected. We were exceptional. Today, we’re just another nation among many.” She patted Samantha’s hand. “I don’t blame you, dearie. It was those godforsaken liberals. They lost us the War of the Sands. Didn’t support the war effort you see. Now the Middle East is a wasteland, and we Americans are nobodies. Losers.”

Samantha nodded. Many she knew held similar views. Maybe they were right.

The lady leaned in and added, “But don’t worry yourself. We’ll restore America, make it great again, just as Trump promised. Right after we rid ourselves of the vermin who ruined it.” Then she went back to knitting her sweater and humming a tune.

Samantha eyed the lady. Did others share her opinion, and if so, what did that mean?

Chapter 2: Mother and Daughter

Fourteen hours later, her airplane landed in Huston, and Samantha transferred to another, a domestic flight that took her to Sacramento, California. It was mid-day when she finally stepped out under the sun, the terminal before her seeming deserted compared to previous visits, with only a handful of people waiting in line to board their plane.

Samantha walked past a couple trying to remove their luggage from a taxi and approached the one stationed in front of it. “I need you to take me to Prairie Filed Drive.”

“Sure thing,” the driver replied. “Right after you hand over the $120 deposit?”

“A deposit fee?” Samantha grimaced. “When has there been a deposit fee to rent a taxi?”

“Since the price of oil got to $15 a gallon and people started refusing to pay the fare because they thought they were being ripped off.”

“How much is a fare to Prairie Filed Drive going to cost me?”

“Let’s put it this way, sweetheart: odds are the deposit isn’t going to cut it.”

“Well, if it is going to cost me that much, I think I’ll find myself another cab.”

The guy shrugged. “Go ahead. They’ll charge you similar rates. Everything costs triple these days, not just the price of gas. A gallon of milk will cost you $11 and a loaf of bread 9. Blame the Saudis for blowing up the Middle East or the other nations for sanctioning the fuck out of us or Congress for defaulting on the national debt and tanking the world economy.”

Samantha eyed the cab’s meter, not eager to call her mother to ask her to send the family limo. She sighed and removed her credit card. “Hit me.”

The man scanned her card with his reader and helped her get her luggage in. Soon, they were driving south down the 519B towards the city’s center.

Samantha eyed the landscape, again, noting how empty the place seemed. The roads should be congested with traffic. Instead, only a few dozen vehicles occupied the highway, mostly self-driving sixteen wheelers, which were easy to distinguish from their manned counterparts by the lack of windows. They moved with inhuman precision, each the same distance from each other. What became of their drivers? Were they unemployed? Homeless?

Samantha turned to her driver and pondered: how long before a robot replaced him?

Construction on the highway forced them to make a detour. The taxi veered left onto a commercial district. It surprised Samantha the number of closed or for sale signs that hung from windows. Trash cans cluttered curbs, the amount making her wonder when the last garbage truck had visited. Vagrants and dogs sifted through them for food.

Samantha shook her head. “I didn’t realize that things had gotten this bad.”

“Six years of crippling sanctions will do that,” the driver said. “They say the sanctions have been lifted, but if they have, they’re not making a difference.”